'I don't want to see it': Decoupling ethnicity and class from social structure in Jewish Israeli high schools

Nissim Mizrachi*, Yehuda C. Goodman, Yariv Feniger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Social inequality in Israel's education system has often been analysed with top-down structural models. This study inquires, instead, how students understand their position in the stratified structure of opportunities at school. Our quantitative and qualitative data, gathered in Jewish high schools in Israel, indicate that, despite clear ethno-class distribution in academic tracking, students reject the logic of identity politics and consider 'free will' to be the main factor determining tracking. In light of the Jewish-Israeli national identity, which rejects class and ethnic divides, the reference point for the system of classification at school shifts to the autonomous individual. Our findings show that students use consumerist and psychological discourses to dismantle ethno-class identities and depoliticize the classification system at school.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1203-1225
Number of pages23
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We wish to thank the Yonatan Shapira Fund, Tel Aviv University and the Silbert Institute, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, for their support of this project. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the Yonatan Shapira Fund Annual Conference, Tel Aviv University (2003), and at the Forum on Critical Sociology of Education, Van Leer Jerusalem Institute (2004·5). Special thanks are due to Avi Kaplan for his help in analysing the quantitative data. We also wish to thank our students and research assistants at Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University, as well as Hanna Ayalon, Gal Levi, Dalia Markovitz, Izhak Saporta and Yossi Yonah for their helpful comments. We would like to express our appreciation to three anonymous reviewers for their critical readings.


  • Academic tracking
  • Class
  • Ethnicity
  • High schools
  • Israel
  • Stratification


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